What’s A Beta Reader?

I keep hearing about beta beaders and wondered what the difference was between a beta reader and a critique partner. So after much googling, I didn’t find a whole lot of difference.

Beta Reader:

A beta reader is someone who agrees to look over a piece of fiction for spelling, grammar, characterization, and continuity errors. Unlike a true editor, a beta reader is typically unpaid, and he or she sees the work at a very rough state. Many authors like to use beta readers to improve the quality of their work before they submit it for professional editing and critique, and betareaders are usually profusely thanked in acknowledgments, in recognition of the time and energy which they invested in the work. (according to http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-beta-reader.htm)

beta reader (also spelled betareader, or shortened to beta) is a person who reads a written work, generally fiction, with what has been described[1] as “a critical eye, with the aim of improving grammarspellingcharacterization, and general style of a story prior to its release to the general public.” (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_reader)


Peer critique, a specialized form of critique, is the common practice of writers reviewing and providing constructive criticism of each other’s work. Most fiction writers use some form of peer critique as part of their process of writing. (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_critique)

Hhhmmm, sounds like the same thing. So is it? I have no idea. What do you think? Is there a difference?

11 responses to “What’s A Beta Reader?”

  1. Sherrinda, what I've heard is that a beta reader is one who has never seen the story before and reads it for overall impression. When writers ask for beta readers on my loops, they aren't expecting the kind of detailed feedback a critique partner offers. They're after a fresh set of eyes to read the book the way a reader would and offer big picture feedback.


  2. I always through beta's didn't have to be writers or experts – but were those people who would read through the story and give the writer an overall impression on pacing, characterization….what worked and what didn't. Whereas critiquers are fellow experts in the field who will dive deeper into stories and do line-edits and such.


  3. oops – meant to write “thought” not “through”


  4. To me, a beta reader is someone without the in depth knowledge of writing who reads for the sake of making sure they're pulled into the story and stay there to the very end.

    When I read as a critiquer, I'm looking at the different elements from a writer's POV. A beta reader reads for the sake of are you telling a good story.


  5. I think a beta reader is one who just checks spelling and grammatical errors. A critique partner, gives constructive criticism about plot continuity, characterization, author voice, head hopping


  6. Similar but different. Sounds like a beta reader does more grammatical looking and a crit partner digs deep to suggest new avenues to consider. :O)


  7. My beta readers are non-writers but “professional” readers—those who read 5-6+ books per month, whose book reviews I enjoy reading because they go beyond the “OMG, I heart this book” kind of feedback. They're thoughtful and insightful about STORY and CHARACTER and what makes them work or why they don't work. They're not concerned with craft and technicalities—except for when craft and technical errors impact their enjoyment of the story.

    Beta readers, for me, are the advocate for the end customer: the general reading public. Critiquers and editors are there to catch all the craft and technical issues. Beta readers (mine, anyway) are there to make sure the story and characters work.

    Of course, that's assuming I could get a manuscript finished a month or two before it's due so that a beta reader would have time to read it and give me feedback. Hoping for that day to come!


  8. This has been great for me to learn from! Thanks!


  9. There really does seem to be a variety of definitions! For me, a beta reader isn't expected to do line edits to fix grammar, spelling, etc., but is an initial reader who approaches the story with an eye to how (and if) it works. I usually ask betas to put a sticky against anything that stops it from being a smooth read for them… lack of continuity or credibility, perhaps a fact that seems wrong, or a major sentence screwup.

    A critique, on the other hand, might be by a fellow writer, or maybe a commercial editor or writing coach… someone who can look at the story in more critical detail, looking for structure and plot faults, tense inconsistencies, variable points of view, lack of conflict, inadequate character development — those kind of things.

    Whether either one actual edits for spelling and grammar would depend on their individual strengths… I encourage either to red pen anything they notice, but since both beta reading and critiquing are usually followed by significant revisions, I would still have to go through the final version myself one last time to (hopefully) catch those pesky kind of errors.


  10. I always thought a beta reader was one of those deep red or blue warm water fish with the long tails, wearing glasses while perusing Moby Dick.

    After these expert comments, it's clearer to me, too. Thanks for asking!


  11. Jeanette, you are right! These comments are stock full of wisdom!


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